I’ve recently been hitting the gym hard in an attempt to rid myself of the Covid fat rolls, but this has resulted in some rather stiff and sore muscles. So I thought I’d make myself a natural muscle rub using some specialised oils!
Wintergreen essential oil is one of those instantly recognisable scents from somewhere in all of our youths - you’ll know it when you smell it. It is medicinal and menthol-y, and if you’ve ever had sore muscles and needed to apply something to soothe and ease it, you’ll recognise the scent; it’s in most pain gels and muscle rubs.
Wintergreen is composed almost entirely of methyl salicylate, which is an ester of salicylic acid, a well known beta hydroxy acid. Methyl salicylate is used medicinally to treat aches and pains in muscles and joints, and is an anti inflammatory and analgesic. It has a cooling effect.
In EU regulations, methyl salicylate is classified as a mild irritant and has a topical dermal limit in cosmetic creams of 0.06%. Because a muscle rub would be classified as a pharmaceutical and not a cosmetic in the EU, its usage is allowed up to 30% and in certain cases, more. The famous but notoriously unregulated Tiger Balm averages a 28% methyl salicylate content for example. Of course, we are not advertising any kind of pharmaceutical so we would never advocate for such a high use of methyl salicylate/wintergreen oil. Please take note of the safety warning at the bottom of this article, and never use it undiluted.
However in tiny doses, we can still gain the benefits of this potent essential oil.
Arnica oil is our next featured ingredient, which should come as no surprise since it is most loved for its ability to soothe pain - a no brainer ingredient in a muscle rub!
We’re adding a touch of black pepper oil to warm muscles and joints and get the circulation going, as well as some lavender oil, which is also healing and anti inflammatory. And those are our actives!
The base of the muscle rub is made from some moisturising butters. I really like using stearic acid in body butters and balms because it adds structure and stability and prevents things from getting too hard in winter or going soft in the summer heat.
Muscle Rub Butter Balm
36% avocado butter
20% mango butter
33% arnica oil
7% stearic acid
2.4% arrowroot powder
0.5% Vit E oil
Melt the avocado butter, mango butter and stearic acid together. Then add in the arrowroot powder, arnica oil and Vitamin E. When the melted oils have cooled off a bit, add in the essential oils. Allow to set up and then whip it for a nice, fluffy butter consistency.
A warning on wintergreen: it is one of the most powerful and potent essential oils and should only be used heavily diluted. Please do not use if you are allergic to aspirin, have a history of blood clots, are pregnant or suffer from sensitizing skin conditions. Do not give to young children or babies. Do not ingest.
We have made sure to use wintergreen in very sparing amounts, which are well under the sensitiser levels for muscle rubs. If you want to increase the amount used to provide further relief, please use discretion.
I have tried out this muscle rub on myself before bed and felt a rather pleasant warm and then cooling sensation. It wasn’t complete instant pain relief, but I went to sleep and woke up feeling a lot better so I think it did its job in a more slow and gentle way. If you need that instant pain relief you would need to increase the wintergreen and black pepper amounts, so this would be up to your discretion.
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